Increased Concerns over Current Policy Regimes Cause Refugee Lawyers and Canadian Law Students to Demand Reform From the Canadian Government
On October 6, 2016, law students from several Canadian cities were to meet with members of Parliament in Canada’s capital to push for reform of Canada’s refugee system. The meeting in question aimed to address growing concerns among both refugee lawyers and law students regarding the many shortfalls of Canada’s current asylum system, specifically the failure to account for realities of refugees fleeing war and persecution.
Among the policy regimes under scrutiny is the Designated Foreign National (DFN) regime, implemented by the former government in 2012 to deter so-called irregular arrivals to Canada. Under the regime, the government deems as Designated Foreign Nationals persons who arrive in Canada without required documents and who government officials believe have traveled on documents obtained from smugglers.
Upon such designation, individuals are then automatically placed in immigration custody until they can provide proof of their identity and without any recourse to the courts to review the decision. The simple fact that persons fleeing conflict and persecution often have no opportunities or realistic prospects to obtain identity or other documents does not factor into the designation process. Effectively, these asylum seekers are afforded less procedural protections without taking into account their day-to-day realities.
Other apparent shortcomings in the current refugee system include the Designated Countries of Origin (DCO) regime and Canada’s immigration detention practices, which see women, children, and persons with mental illness placed into detention centers, sometimes indefinitely. The lack of procedural protections and unquestionable violations of human rights under these regimes have attracted significant scrutiny of the system for some period of time now, both in Canada and internationally. So far, the response to the criticisms and growing concerns has been slow and inadequate.
As the number of persons in need of asylum continues to grow worldwide in today’s humanitarian crisis, the need for a fair and effective refugee protection system in Canada, based on respect for human rights, has never been so apparent. As such, it remains an enduring hope among immigration and refugee lawyers that the increased pressure to reform the current system will finally push the Canadian government to take much-needed action.